External accountability bodies to check police excesses under discussion

Published February 12, 2021
Both draft laws propose to remove sections relating to the establishment of the regional complaint authorities and public safety commissions. — APP/File
Both draft laws propose to remove sections relating to the establishment of the regional complaint authorities and public safety commissions. — APP/File

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is considering legislation to form two independent bodies for the externalaccountability of police officials and better coordination between the police and district administrations.

The draft Inspectorate of Criminal Justice Services Bill, 2021 and KP Independent Police Complaints Authority Bill, 2021, are meant to set up independent accountability bodies for checking the police’s excesses.

The regional police complaints authorities and provincial and district public safety commissions, which were meant to check the police’s excesses under the KP Police Act, 2017, haven’t been established even more than three years after the passage of legislation that gave operational autonomy to the police.

Both draft laws propose to remove sections relating to the establishment of the regional complaint authorities and public safety commissions and shift their functions and powers to bodies to be formed under the proposed legislation.

Proposed legislation also promises better coordination between police and district admins

Under the proposed Inspectorate of Criminal Justice Services Bill, sections 48-65 of the KP Police Act 2017, which provide for public safety and police complaints commissions at provincial and district levels, will be repealed.

Within six months after legislation, the government will set up an inspectorate headed by a director general and assisted by at least five chief inspectors.

Under the section 5 of the proposed bill, the inspectorate would have powers to carry out inspections to check whether criminal justice services including police, prosecution, prisons, probation and reclamation, tourism police, anti-corruption establishment and levies force have been performed in accordance to standards set by law, relevant code of conduct and rules or orders and suggest remedial measures.

It would also be tasked with preparing inspections plans for carrying out periodic inspection of each of criminal justice bodies, review records of each of these bodies to determine trends, identify weaknesses, assess knowledge and skills of members of these bodies, advising government on improvement of these services and issues protocols for conduct of inspections.

The inspectorate would also have powers to inspect or obtain any record or data maintained or required to be maintained by these services and may also call for any data or record in connection of investigation of cases by these agencies.

Section 19 of the proposed legislation provides for transferring the employees of the public safety commissions to the inspectorate.

The draft KP Independent Police Complaints Authority Bill 2021 proposes to repeal section 66 to 72, which provided for setting up regional police complaint authorities. By amending section 9(2) (ii) of the KP Police Act 2017, the legislation would replace the provincial public safety and police complaints commission with KP independent police complaint authority.

Under section 5 of the proposed bill authority would be headed by a chairman who will hold office for a period of three years. Besides, the authority would have up to five members. The authority would be headquartered in Peshawar and its offices at all police region level across the province.

The authority will ensure that policing bodies maintain adequate arrangements pertaining to handling of complaints made about the conduct of persons serving with police, reporting and recording of information which shows police personnel conduct involving commission of criminal offence or behavior justifying disciplinary proceedings.

t would also repot and record information which links death and injury of a person after coming in contact with police; supervise, manage and undertake inquiries under the law or any other complaint relating to police referred by the chief minister.

Under the section 7 of the proposed law, police would be bound to provide authority with required information.

The legislation provides for local, supervised, direct and independent inquiry in cases of complaints. Independent inquiry would conducted where a member of public has died or suffered serious injury due to contact with police officer, died or injured due to police failure to act, death or injury in police custody, serious physical torture in custody, sexual assault by police, police involvement in land grabbing.

The action on inquiries provides for creating improvement plan for police personnel, compensation to be paid to complainants and one or more services punishments.

Police however, has cried wolf and claimed the amendments seek to do away with its operational autonomy.

A news release issued by the Association of Former Inspector General of Police said it had formally informed the prime minister about attempts to roll back the operational autonomy of the police by amending the KP Police Act, 2017.

It said the reversal of the landmark legislation in question would turn out to be a bad move for the country.

The officials declared the police version on the matter a ‘total hogwash and insisted that the powers of transfer and posting and their operational autonomy would stay intact.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2021

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